It’s unusual to see stray dogs on the streets of most Western countries. Whilst canis familiaris is a common sight almost everywhere else in the world, pets without owners tend to end up in animal rescues or shelter; with a limited life expectancy. However, In Turkey, they’re very much part of the landscape and the wider communities. Indeed, there’s estimated to be well over a hundred thousand in Istanbul alone.
Whilst the Turkish authorities have spent decades trying to eradicate ‘free-ranging urban dogs, today they’re actually supported and helped by the authorities. In Elizabeth Lo’s new documentary, Stray, she follows Zeytin, Nazar, and Kartal, three canine wanderers, as they go about their days searching for food and shelter. Along the way we’re afforded a glimpse into another side of Turkish society.
Whilst the charm of Stray is pretty obvious, Lo uses her premise wisely. By observing these dogs over a number of years we see the connection they have with the residents of Istanbul. Particularly a group of young homeless Syrian immigrants. This relationship gives the documentary a different perspective. One which might suggest that we sometimes treat animals better than people. Stray is a poetic and moving film about outsiders living on the streets of the Turkish capital.
Stray screened at London Film Festival.